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Surgical treatment of fracture of the ring of axis - "hangman's fracture"

Surgical treatment of fracture of the ring of axis - "hangman's fracture"

Acta Chirurgiae Orthopaedicae et Traumatologiae Cechoslovaca 73(5): 321-328

To evaluate surgical management of the fracture of the ring of axis (FRA), known as "hangman's fracture", and to discuss adequacy of this treatment. Between 1994 and 2004, 41 patients with FRA were surgically treated in our hospital. We present a retrospective study of 30 cases treated by anterior cervical fixation and fusion and 11 cases treated by a posterior, CT-guided approach (published recently). Our diagnostic algorithm for evaluation of FRA included plain radiographs for basic diagnosis, detailed CT scan, MRI and finally passive lateral flexion-extension fluoroscopy (performed by physician) to assess stability. We also consider discography in selected cases, allowing further evaluation of discoligamentous injury. Fractures were classified according to Levine. Posterior compressive osteosynthesis according to Judet was performed in 11 patients with Levine type I fractures with fracture fragment distraction > 3 mm. Anterior graft and plate fixation was chosen in 30 patients with type II (25 patients) and type I (5 patients) fractures where C2/3 disc injury was confirmed by MRI or discography. There was no case of facet dislocation in our series (type III). Pain, motion restriction and overall satisfaction with neck status were assessed on a scale 1-5 (1 = best) in patients treated with anterior approach. Self-evaluation questionnaires were administered during follow-up (average, 7.3 years; 24 months to 11 years). Anatomically reduced fracture fusion was achieved in all cases (100%) at one year follow-up. Both autologous tricortical (22) and fibular allografts (8) were used for anterior approach. No perioperative complications occurred and no case was aborted. Average hospital stay in patients with standalone FRA was 6.8 days (3-15). Patients wore Philadelphia collar for 4-6 weeks. One patient died during follow up due to unrelated causes. None of the 29 patients treated with the anterior approach reported severe or very severe pain (grades 4 or 5). The average pain score was 1.28. Three patients with isolated FRAs reported slight subjective restriction of movement (grade 2). The "satisfaction with overall neck status" scale showed an average score of 1.62, never worse than grade 2. Despite increasing popularity of anterior surgical approach in the treatment of type II FRA, most authors still recommend conservative treatment. Surgical treatment is consensually recommended in type III fractures only. Type I is treated exclusively conservatively. There is currently no evidence-based data supporting any method of treatment of so called "hangman's fracture". The majority of treating surgeons do not consider the status of the intervertebral disc. Dynamic films, simulating the peak point of injury, are usually not performed. Hence, potentially unstable fractures are overlooked. This also explains the lack of long term follow-up data regarding the radiological status of C2/3 intervertebral disc as well as patients' subjective complaints. Surgery provides plausible results. Compared to conservative treatment, it can offer significant benefits: 1) immediate, better and stable reposition; 2) high fusion rate; 3) shortening of the treatment period with better quality of life. Contrary to conservative treatment modalities, surgery possesses a potential for further development.

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Accession: 050467727

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PMID: 17140513

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